April 22, 2014
ABS is one of the most commonly used, and most versatile materials available in 3D printing today. If you're new to the scene though, it can be a bit daunting to start with. However, the payoff is worth it. Learning to print well with ABS is essential if you want strong, heat resistant parts.
ABS or Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene is a common thermoplastic. It’s a popular plastic for injection molding and it’s used to make legos, instruments, sports equipment and more.
If you’re used to printing with PLA, you’ll probably find ABS a little trickier to print with. There are a couple more steps required for each print, and it has a different set of printing settings. However, you need not despair. ABS is a strong and heat resistant filament, with awesome post processing options. With this article under your belt, things will be printing your way.
As we discussed in our PLA article, getting the first layer down is the most important part of the print. Here are the key points:
In order to print with ABS, you need a temperature controlled bed. The recommended bed temperature for ABS is 110°C.
Instead of printing directly on the glass, it’s better to print with Kapton/PET tape. This makes it easier to clean the bed after you’ve been printing for a while, as you can simply remove the tape, clearing any leftover adhesive or filament. For instructions on applying Kapton tape see the video below or read our article: Bed Surfaces - How to apply Kapton Tape
Having your bed level and extruder at the right height is extremely important when printing on tape. If your extruder is too far from the glass your ABS simply will not stick. If the extruder is too low the glass it will completely block the extrusion of material and may cause a jam after extended periods.
You should also make sure that you have an adhesive of some sort. ABS requires something to bind itself to during the first layer of the print. The most commonly used adhesives are glue sticks, ABS slurry, and hairspray. We prefer hairspray because it’s easy to apply and smells nice. Make sure you get the kind with a plastic base. (We have used "Aqua Net Extra Super Hold")
Kapton/PET tape is a great way to print ABS. It makes a great shiny bottom layer and the heated bed ensures that your parts stay nice and flat.
For more in depth information regarding ABS bed adhesion check out this article we wrote for more detailed guidance.
When working with a new roll of filament for the first time, we generally like to start out printing at about 230c and then adjusting the temperature up or down by 5 degree increments until we get the quality of the print and the strength of the part to be in good balance with each other.
You will see more strings between the separate parts of your print and you may notice that the extruder leaks out a lot of plastic while moving between separate areas of the print. If this happens you should try to incrementally lower the temperature by 5 degrees until the extruder is not leaking so much material.
Sometimes you will have a material that is simply less viscous than ABS and will leak more even at lower temperatures. We recommend you increase the retraction a few millimeters (3-4 seems like a good number for most every ABS we have tried).
You will either see that the filament is not sticking to the previous layer and you are getting a rough surface, or you will get a part that is not strong and can be pulled apart easily. In either case, you should increase the temperature by 5 degrees and try again until you get good line segments on every layer and have a strong part when done printing.
When switching ABS colors:
Note: We recommended removing the filament when soft rather than when fully melted so that there is a lower possibility of depositing melted material onto the extruder drive gear or leaving meterial high up the melt chamber entrance. Both of which can cause jamming and are hard to clean out. Soft removal also helps ensure that you get everything out of the extruder tip.
There are a few key things to check when your prints aren't working. But before we look at solutions we need to have a brief description of your symptoms.
"I can't get the first layer to stick."
"The part has bad internal layers and top surfaces."
"The outside edges of my parts have lots of little bumps on them."
However, don't be too quick to assume the problem is in your ABS. With the right settings and patience hobbyists have succeeded in printing all sorts of materials many of which have very low viscosity. You should be able to get usable parts even with some lower quality filament.
"Tall sections of my prints look melted or squished together."
My part is curling off the bed.”
"My printer will not extrude any material."
Thank you for reading this article!
If you have any comments, corrections, or contributions, please drop us an email or give us a call. We are always looking for tips, and best practices - and would love to hear from you.
The MatterHackers Crew
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